WHAT DOES PPE LOOK LIKE AFTER AN ARC FLASH?
WHAT IS AN ARC FLASH?
Arc Flash is used as a blanket term for two reactions that happen concurrently; the arc flash and arc blast. An arc flash refers to the intense amount of heat and light produced in the event of an arc fault. Temperatures during an arc flash can reach upwards of 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 19,426 degrees Celcius). To put this number in perspective, that's roughly 3.5 times hotter than the surface of the sun.
The arc blast, on the other hand, indicates the powerful shockwave that accompanies the light and heat produced during an arc fault. Each, however, is treated differently. Knowing the distinction between an arc flash and an arc blast is important in understanding how PPE protects the worker should they experience this type of hazardous event.
The distinction between an arc flash and an arc blast
The difference between an arc flash and arc blast is important because PPE is designed to protect against one in particular; the arc flash. Arc-Rated PPE (like the DragonWear Exxtreme™ Jacket pictured below) is made with flame-resistant fabrics that protect the wearer against high-energy events involving fire (like an arc flash). These fabrics are designed to protect from the intense heat produced from an arc flash, however, they cannot protect the wearer from the accompanying shockwave as this force is physics-based.
One noticeable aspect of the jacket after being burned is how instead of creating holes in the fabric (also known as break-open), it turns a bright yellow-green color over the affected areas. The DragonWear Exxtreme™ Jacket is made with DuPont Nomex® IIIA FR fabric. This type of inherent flame resistant fabric is designed to minimize these break-opens whereas instead, the fibers expand to create a barrier between the fire and the wearer's skin.
Ensuring your ppe meets industry safety standards
While some PPE can hold up in most arc flash events without break-open, it is still important to understand the level of protection (category rating) required by a specific job and/or industry. One major indicator to look out for when purchasing PPE that is designed to protect against an arc flash is the NFPA 70E certification. This is the NFPA standard for electrical safety in the workplace and is specifically designed to protect the worker from major electrical events, which includes an arc flash.
The clothing you wear on the job site should meet this standard to ensure you are properly protected at all times. In the case of our Exxtreme™ Jacket, this is an example of a piece of flame-resistant PPE that meets the NFPA 70E standard with a CAT 2 protection level and an Arc rating of 17 cal/cm².